Etikettarkiv: Decisions

Liv i arbetet 5

Principen om icke-tvång

Jag nämnde i mitt förra inlägg att grundaren av sociokrati fick sina grundidéer från skolan där han gick i som barn. Detta är en berättelse om denna skola—De Werkplaats Kindergemeenschap i Bilthoven, Nederländerna—och hur den växte fram steg för steg.

Kees och Betty Boeke startade skolan på 1920-talet. Skolan är ett exempel på hur ideal som frihet, demokrati och jämlikhet omsattes i praktiken. På samma sätt som barn tycker om frihet och spontanitet så tycker de om ordning och reda. Utmaningen är att hitta en minimal struktur som stöder maximal frihet. Ordning kan förstås skapas med tvång, men rädsla hämmar all spontanitet. Frågan blir då hur man kan skapa ordning utan tvång? Detta är bakgrunden till att principen om icke-tvång etablerades.

I en bok från 1956 beskrivs hur vänliga barnen är mot alla, och hur enkelt och naturligt skolan verkade fungera. Det fanns mycket glädje och skratt. De äldre barnen hjälpte de yngre. Det fanns ingen skadegörelse och inga slagsmål. Det fanns inget tvång, eller hot om tvång. Skolan verkade genomsyras av tystnad och lugn.

Hemligheten bakom skolans framgångar låg i hur frustrationer i skollivet hanterades. Bespreking förkroppsligade andan på skolan. Samtalsandan hade växt fram från Kees och Betty Boekes ursprungliga skola. Samtalet var en samling där allt som berörde hela skolan diskuterades. Var och en på skolan hade möjlighet att säga sitt. Och idéer kombinerades så att lösningar som representerade den gemensamma viljan kunde hittas. Kees och Betty Boeke fick denna idé från kväkarna och deras samlingar, där man söker efter ”mötets mening” istället för att rösta.

Även om icke-tvång tillämpades, och alla beslut fattades gemensamt, så finns inga garantier för att skolans atmosfär kommer att bestå. Skolans framgång är beroende av dess familjära atmosfär, där minoriteten aldrig körs över. Det är den familjära atmosfären som förklarar vänligheten mellan vuxna och barn. Denna atmosfär växte naturligt fram ur de omständigheter vilka skolan grundades.

Det viktiga är att barnen respekteras som människor. Varje människa förtjänar respekt, hänsyn och kärlek. Det gick inte att bära en ”mask” på skolan. Du kanske inte vill att andra ska se hur du känner dig, men det går inte att dölja. Även om det inte alltid är lätt att vara utan en ”mask”, så ger denna spontanitet också glädje.

Skolan uppmuntrade barnens kreativitet. Aktiviteter som barnen helhjärtat kunde ägna sig åt säkerställde en atmosfär av vitalitet och glädje i livet. Poängen är att låta barnens intressen ta dem till den punkt där de vill lära sig. Och det fungerade! Effekten blev att barnen kände att deras personliga behov uppfylldes så långt som möjligt. Det var också en känsla som var viktigt för att vidmakthålla atmosfären av frihet på skolan.

Ett oväntat resultat av friheten var spontant ansvarstagande. Barnen tog ansvar även då läraren inte var på plats. Mänskliga behov sågs och blev omgående tillfredsställda. Barnen förväntandes inte organisera allt själva. Barnen ingick i en grupp, en gemenskap. Den enda faran var att de vuxna tog över och därmed tog från barnen deras eget initiativ och ansvar, så att barnen själva inte fick uppleva tillfredsställelsen av att själva organisera och skapa något.

Balansen mellan frihet och struktur måste hittas för att en gemenskap ska vara hälsosam. Skolan lyckades med detta genom att kombinera tre saker: (1) Ingen rädsla och inget tvång; (2) vänlighet vid förseelser; och (3) kontinuerligt stöd. Det innebär inte att det inte fanns några sanktioner, eller att inget gjordes om ett barn misskötte sig.

Poängen är att barnen inte dömdes eller fördömdes. Att döma och fördöma är sämre än sämst. Ingen indignation visades. Barnet fick enbart frågan: Varför gjorde du det? Känslan av skuld uppstod naturligt. Och med det kommer också önskan att gottgöra. Nästa fråga var: Vad tänker du göra åt det? Frånvaron av tvång gjorde att det inte fanns någon att motsätta sig. Valet att rätta till var barnets. Personlig antagonism undveks.

Däremot kunde vissa barn uppleva att det moraliska trycket ibland blev så stort att de upplevde det förtryckande och gjorde uppror. Några lämnade t.o.m. skolan, även om de flesta var tacksamma för hjälpen de fick med sina svårigheter. Skolans metoder hjälpte t.o.m. barn som hade mentala svårigheter. Det tog en eller två terminer.

Skolgemenskapen är ett samarbete mellan barn och vuxna. Den underliggande idén är att barnen vill lära sig, så det är upp till barnen att bevara den ordning som krävs för inlärning. Ursprungligen fanns endast en kommitté, Bespreking, som möttes en gång i veckan eller oftare om nödvändigt. Alla andra kommittéer föddes ur denna.

Från den ursprungliga Bespreking utvecklades Ronde. Dess syfte var att hantera ordningsfrågor. Alla medlemmar i Ronde var lika ansvariga för att lösa ett problem de var inblandade i. När det är problem, beror det vanligtvis inte bara på ett barn. Atmosfären i en grupp är lika ansvarigt för att något går fel, som brist på kontroll av en viss individ.

Mycket av skolans organisation lämnades medvetet flytande. Mänskliga, och inte tekniska, faktorer var avgörande. Detta inkluderade sammansättningen av kommittéerna. Kommittéer skapades spontant som ett resultat av skolans kraftiga tillväxt, när organisationen inte längre kunde hantera det stora inflödet av barn.

Barn håller sig inte alltid till reglerna, även när de har gjort dem själva. De lär sig från sina misslyckanden, så de måste få möjlighet att göra misstag. Konflikter uppstår alltid. När en lösning hittas, flyttas vanligtvis konflikten någon annanstans. Barn är spontana och handlar impulsivt i ögonblicket utan att tänka på konsekvenserna för andra. Viktigare än själva ordningen är lärandet i sig. Det finns alltid barn som inte lyssnar. Och det finns alltid en minoritet som inte låter sig påverkas av något.

Spontanitet förväntades på De Werkplaats. Det är naturligt för barn att vara spontana. Atmosfären blev outhärdlig för vuxna som irriterade sig på det. Inflödet av nya lärare ökade svårigheterna. Handling och reaktion hörde till ordningen för dagen. Vad vi gör och säger påverkas av det vi känner. Inget kan förhindra detta, så en ärlig ödmjukhet tillsammans med en villighet att erkänna misstag krävs. Där fanns också den ständiga känslomässiga belastningen som finns i alla grupper som arbetar tillsammans. Dagliga svårigheter uppstår i alla grupper.

Auktoriteten låg hos gruppen och inte hos läraren. Principen om icke-tvång fick såväl lärare som barn att ta sin del av ansvaret i det som gick fel. Detta krävde en villighet att se hela situationen utan beskyllningar. De Werkplaats tog för givet att alla vill vara vänner, och att det är bättre att vara kärleksfull än att hata. Aggression smälter bort i en atmosfär av ömsesidigt givande och tagande. Tillsammans kan vi göra livet finare och rikare för alla.

Relaterade inlägg:
Book Review: The Werkplaats Adventure

Organizing reflection 25

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
It’s not ok to sell, to buy—or to rent—human beings.

Today’s reflection is based on David Ellerman‘s arguments against the rental of human beings at the Abolish Human Rentals website. (The contents of the website are also available as an ebook., which is compiled by Daniel Trusca.) This site examines the standard employment relationship, the human rental, and seeks to promote an understanding of the problems associated with it. The abolition of human rentals is a profound idea, which has revolutionary implications. David Ellerman writes (my emphasis in bold):

Inalienable rights are based on the already broadly held principle of the non-transferability of responsibility for one’s actions. That principle, taken to its logical conclusion, means the rental of humans have no more legitimacy than their sale. The issue is not one of coercion, willfully choosing to be rented, or the treatment and compensation of workers. Humans cannot choose to be rented for the same reason people cannot choose to sell themselves into slavery or sell their vote, regardless of their consent or how much they are paid.

The alternative to human rentals is universal self employment in democratically managed worker owned businesses, or worker cooperatives. Workplace democracy eliminates the alienation of decision making power, and worker ownership means workers appropriate any resulting profits or losses, thus bearing financial responsibility for their actions.

Human rentals involves two key features.

The first aspect is the agreement to follow orders within terms of the rental. … The rented person must obey, or risk being fired.

The second aspect of a human rental is the transfer of responsibility for the actions of the person while at work. The most obvious is the transfer of responsibility for any profit or loss that results from the worker’s actions.

Since the abolition of slavery, humans ownership has been banned. People are no longer allowed to sell their labor by the lifetime. Instead they must rent themselves temporarily for a salary or wage.

The inalienability of personal responsibility is the foundation of the abolitionist argument from which all else follows. … The legal system clearly recognized this principle in the prosecution of crimes. All participants in a crime are held responsible. The law does not excuse a hired criminal because they were following orders.

The inalienability of responsibility for ones actions does not disappear when a crime is not being committed. It holds in all cases where human action is involved. In particular it applies to productive labor. However, the legal system pretends otherwise… It allows financial responsibility for profits or losses resulting from labor to be contractually transferred violating a principle it readily acknowledges in the commission of a crime.

Isolated individuals can rarely overcome a system, organization is necessary. The employment system has demonstrated a remarkable robustness in insuring human rentals remain the dominant form of labor exchange.

Progressive change is inherently a bottom up activity. It involves people getting together to discuss common problems, coming to mutual decisions, and taking action. It requires building trust and relationships, both time consuming activities. …

It is not rugged individualism which solves problems, but cooperation between people which provides the solution. …

Parallel approaches are essential, because they cater to the different assessments and abilities of individual participants. Organizing efforts can and should take place simultaneously on different fronts.

The point is that the best solution is not known. There are promising directions in the current environment, but circumstances change. History can only provide so much of a guide. Creativity and experimentation in the organizing process is a necessity.

In the end education and awareness are necessary but not sufficient, structural change is also needed. The structure of work and the employment system must be fundamentally changed.

There are many steps that can be taken to abolish human rentals. By analogy one can think of appropriate actions if we were seeking to abolish slavery.

Advocacy on this issue carries significant risk and the need for mutual support is essential. Efforts to provide support and build a viable alternative should not be neglected.

Worker Cooperatives are democratically run, worker-owned businesses. They are the alternative to the … alienating employment system, involving collaborative self-employment by groups of individuals.

While technically trivial to implement, the transaction is simple it is unlikely to happen. The primary reason this won’t spontaneously take place is that equity holders are unlikely to be willing sellers at the net asset value. It would be the equivalent of slave owners spontaneously deciding to free their slaves.1

Generative organizing involves people getting together to discuss common problems, coming to mutual decisions, and taking action. It requires building trust and relationships. Creativity and experimentation are necessary.

Notes:
1 David Ellerman, Abolish Human Rentals | Support Worker Cooperatives (accessed 2018-08-18).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 18

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
In today’s reflection I’m looking into the Cynefin complexity framework. Here is an interview where Dave Snowden, the creator of Cynefin, shares the philosophy underpinning his work. He talks about how people can apply his insights to leading and managing organizations.

Dave Snowden says among other things that (my emphasis in bold):1

We should manage the evolutionary potential of the present, rather than aiming for some idealized future state.

If you have a highly constrained environment, you can manage it through rules and objectives, because you’ve got predictability. … In a complex system, you have to manage in a different way. …

The great liberation of complexity science is that it gives you a base in science to say you’ve got a non-causal system. The minute you realize that systems can be non-causal, everything becomes simpleIf you believe causality is a necessary condition, life becomes very, very, complicated.

There’s a basic difference between … an enabling constraint and a governing constraint. A governing constraint is context freeand an enabling constraint is context sensitive. … A governing constraint is a container. … Within this boundary you can do whatever you want. A fixed constraint says, this is the way you do it. No variation is permissible.

Excessive constraints actually produces deviant behavior. … Human beings will accept constraint. … One of the great things about humans is that we actually have constraints … like laws, and also things like acceptable forms of behavior, and rituals. … We like order. We are really good at it. There’s nothing wrong with it.

But there is a big difference in Cynefin between order which is self-evident, which everybody buys into, and order which could only be understood by experts. Obvious vs. complicated, best practice vs. good practice, fixed constraints vs. governing constraints.

Cynefin is a typology, not a taxonomy. Taxonomy puts things into rigid chategories. Typology says this is different perspectives, different ways of looking at it. Actually, cynefin is a mixture of both. … The primary division of ordinary, complex and chaotic is a taxonomy. … Within that there are different gradations and that’s typology.

The difference between the obvious and the complicated is basically a gradient, it’s not a rigid boundary. … The point is that there are right answers. … The boundary between obvious and chaotic is a catastrophic cliff … If you become complacent you restrain a system which shouldn’t be constrained because it will break catastrophically. …

Complex to complicated is when you stop doing your multiple safe-to-fail experiments. … You’ve come out of the mist, you know roughtly what to do, but you’ve not settled yet. … You kind of know where you’re going, then it becomes complicated.

The liminal domain to chaos is drawn as a closed space. It’s open on the other one, because that’s where you dip into chaos for innovation. Or, you dip into chaos for mass sensing. No agent is connected with anyother agent. … The issue is, if you enter into chaos accidently, it leads to disaster. If you enter into it deliberately, … it’s a good thing to do. …

If people are arguing about the details, that’s liminality. … We know this is probably right, but we don’t know how to do it yet. That’s liminal. … Liminality is a good concept, because it’s a state of transition. And the longer you hold it in a liminal state, the more reliable is what comes out of it. … You’ve got a tradeoff between speed and reliability.

You move technically from deductive to abductive logic. … Deductive, if A then B. Inductive, all the cases of A have B, therefore the likely association. Abductive is a logic of hunches, plausable connections between apparently unconnected things. …

Human beings have evolved to think abductively. … Human beings have evolved to make decisions collectively, not individually. … That’s our strength, we can cooperate. … If you can increase the number of people in the collective decision-cycle, you can make it more objective.

One of the dangers we got with the engineering approaches which came in the 80s is people try to get rid of human judgment. … One of the big things over the next two decades is human judgment. … Artificial intelligence … is the second existential threat to humanity after nuclear war. … Part of the problem is that we’re reducing human beings to following rigid processes

Vector measures says am I going in the right direction, at the right speed, for the right effort. It doesn’t have a specific outcome. … It basically says I need to move in this direction, I need to shift in this direction at this pace. Am I doing it? … You still measure, but you measure appropriately.

Are you riding a wave of uncertainty, which means you have to have a sense of direction, and keep moving to maintain balance? Or are you in a highly stable position where you can say what you should achieve? Context is everything. … Always start from where people are, unless you can kill them and start from fresh, but that’s rare.1

Generative organizing is appropriate for riding waves of uncertainty. It relies on collective decision-making, abductive logic, and human judgment. Generative organizing is impossible if constraints are fixed.

Notes:
1 #12 Managing in Complexity—Dave Snowden | Being Human, 2018-06-15 (accessed 2018-08-10).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 17

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
In today’s reflection, I combine Petra Kuenkel‘s (@PetraKuenkel) thoughts about co-creation and collaborative spaces with Christopher Alexander’s insights into how to create built environments that have life, well-being, beauty. Actually, Petra Kuenkel refers to Christopher Alexander herself. I simply add to it. (Here and here are my reviews of Petra Kuenkel’s two books Mind and Heart and The Art of Leading Collectively. And here is my review of Christopher Alexander’s book The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth.)

Petra Kuenkel writes in this post on Co-creation, collaborative spaces and aliveness (my emphasis in bold):

Over my years of working in complex collaboration projects and institutional change management I noticed that certain elements consistently shift actors into more collaborative spaces. …

When I looked behind the scenes of collaboration initiatives … one insight emerged. It was simple and at the same time complex.

It reminded me of the writings of the American architect Christopher Alexander. … Christopher Alexander concluded that … [the] perception of a degree of “life” in an external structure … was not arbitrary. Nor was it simply a matter of taste.

So my (rather simple) conclusions is the following:

Co-creation works best in a collaborative space where there is “life”, a sense of vitality rather than superficial harmony. … There is usually a strong feeling of igniting each other’s vitality. You have fun. You feel alive. Your energy is boosted.1

Christopher Alexander says in this interview from 2011 that (my emphasis in bold):

Make sure, whatever you are deciding, or whatever you are doing, or whatever you are making—any action you are taking—make sure that it has inner beauty.

If you take that seriously, it will change everything. … When you come face-to-face with real beauty it changes you, and it changes the other people who are witnessing it, or who are thinking it, and they will take a different road. … Although this is so simple, it’s extremely powerful, because it only comes from the heart. … If you take this advice … it will change your own life.2

And, in this interview from 1994 Christopher Alexander says:

What you are looking for is the presence or absence of life. … It doesn’t imply that it’s lively, it could be very quiet. … But anyway, that it has its life. …

You can’t do this … without being willing, in effect, to make that judgment. …

Can one make such a judgment? Is it reasonably objective? Is there really such a thing? … Technocrats will not admit that there’s such a thing. So if you have a technically organized bureaucracy, they will either refuse to perform it, or perform it quite wrong by assigning arbitrary technical criteria. …

It wasn’t esoteric at all … to perform this thing. … The kinds of questions that people were asked to report on were very straightforward. … The only operative thing … necessary is people had to be willing to record their feelings. …

So much of rule bound society, in effect, makes it not okay to do that. Of course, people have feelings, but the question is: Is it alright to use it? … The general rule of thumb has been: No, it’s not okay to do that. …

They tend to twist it into bureaucratic forms. … Things that can be quantified very easily appear, therefore, to have some legitimacy that are actually no where as near as telling these larger, more global feelings.3

So, in other words, does it feel right?

Generative organizing looks for the presence of life/well-being/beauty, rather than superficial bureaucratized order. This requires a willingness to observe and feel.

Notes:
1 Petra Kuenkel, Co-creation, collaborative spaces and aliveness | Petra Kuenkel—The Future of Leadership is Collective, 2017-09-08 (accessed 2018-08-09).
2 Interview with Christopher Alexander by Hiro Nakano | YouTube,  2011-09-05 (accessed 2018-08-09).
3 Interview with Christopher Alexander by Greg Bryant | YouTube, 1994-01-06 (accessed 2018-08-09).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Experiences from the Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting 2017

Introduction
The purpose of this post is to share some of my experiences from the Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting (June 29—July 2), which was held at Nordiska Folkhögskolan, Kungälv, Sweden.

Background
I’m very interested in the Quakers method of making collective decisions and have written about it here and here (in Swedish).

Here is my review (in English) of Michael J. Sheeran’s book Beyond Majority Rule: voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends. Sheeran spent two years (1973—75) conducting interviews, reading, and observing the actual decision-making of the Friends. He is convinced that the Quakers have something of first importance to share in their method.2 I am so too!

Here is also my review (in English) of A Quaker Approach to the Conduct of Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment, which has grown out of a decade of experiments employing Quaker processes of communal discernment in research.1 The book itself is an example of collaborative work.

Nordiska Folkhögskolan, Kungälv, Sweden.

Program
The Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting started and ended with meetings for (silent) worship and decision-making. The clerks3 from the Nordic countries welcomed all participants at the start, and functionaries for the Yearly Meeting were elected. The epistle4 was reviewed and approved at the end of the Yearly Meeting. Each Nordic country had, in addition, their own decision-making meetings. I participated in the meeting of the Swedish Friends.

Theme
The theme for the Yearly Meeting was ”Am I my brother’s keeper?” The theme was explored in a talk by a Finnish Friend (in no less than four languages). Her conclusion was that Cain and Abel, in the biblical Book of Genesis, represent two sides of each human being, and each society, in patterns of active and passive violence. Several workshops were held on the theme.

Observations
Participating in the Yearly Meeting was an experience on many levels. My focus here is on the decision-making. The primary reason why I wanted to participate was to observe the actual decision-making, but sitting in silence together with others during long time influences you more than you might think.

Initially, I viewed myself as an observer, but I realized after a while that it was an impossible role. A Swedish Friend expressed it as ”a Friend of Friends is a Friend.” And a Friend from Great Britain told me that you are a participant in the decision-making meeting simply by being present. Interestingly, he had experiences of making decisions in meetings with a thousand participants.

Two clerks guided the decision-making meeting of the Swedish Friends. The clerks passed a candle between themselves to show the meeting who was the active clerk. The clerk kept the meeting in silence by looking down, and invited people to speak by looking up. Participants who talked stood up. The point is that only one person can stand up at a time. The minute of each item was prepared before moving on to the next item.

One of the agenda items had to do with the approval of new members. I was sent out together with other non-members during that item. I was later told that the meeting had become particularly interesting at that time and that the clerk had handled it really well. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to see it myself.

It was decided at the final meeting that the next Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting will be held in 2020. As already mentioned, the meeting epistle was also reviewed and approved. I got the impression that the presiding clerks were relieved that it went so smoothly. The meeting ended thirty minutes ahead of time.

Conclusions
The key takeaway for me is that the Quakers show that it’s possible to make collective decisions. A prerequisite, though, is the following: ”We act as a community, whose members love and trust each other. […] As a […] community, […] we have a continuing responsibility to nurture the soil in which unity may be found.”4

The theme which was explored is, in my view, related to the sharing of decision-making power (or lack thereof). The desire to have power over people, to force our view on them, leads to violence. The places to begin applying the skills and generosity to avoid violence and to resolve conflicts are in our personal relationships, our workplaces, and wherever decisions are made.

Notes:
1 Gray Cox et al., A Quaker Approach to the Conduct of Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment (Quaker Institute for the Future, 2014), p. ix.
2 Michael J. Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends, p. ix.
3 The clerk (ombud in Swedish) guides the meeting. The clerk has to discern the ‘the sense of the meeting’ of each item and prepare a minute. The final decision about whether the minute represents the sense of the meeting is the responsibility of the meeting itself, not of the clerk. See Clerks – Quakers in Britain (accessed 2017-07-03).
4 The epistle (epistel in Swedish) is a letter sent by the Yearly Meeting to all other Yearly Meetings. See Epistle (Quaker) – Wikipedia (accessed 2017-07-03).
5 Britain Yearly Meeting, Quaker faith & practice (5th Edition, 2013), Chapter 3.02.

Quaker decision-making in a secular context

The following quote (in italics) is an example of collective decision-making in a former Soviet country after the fall of the Soviet Union:

… I [Leonard Joy] was charged to support a team created to manage a process for the redesign of the public sector. … I chose to act as would a clerk in a Quaker meeting. The team included former government officials and a member of the secret police. … they could not contain themselves from argument, … interrupting for their voice to be heard.

They acknowledged that this was not productive and accepted my clerking authority, which now required them to open their meetings with silent worship. Of course, I did not call it that. I asked them to center themselves in their role in search for the greater good. …

I also asked them to speak only when acknowledged by the clerk—which, of course, I called “the chair.” I further asked them not to present arguments against one another but to each contribute what they understood that was relevant to the decision. I emphasized that we should use the ego to serve the task and not the task to serve the ego.

I further explained the aim of coming to unity and the value of that in securing ownership of the outcome. In my role as chairman I gave periodic reports of what seemed to be agreed, what seemed to need further resolution, and what I sensed that this would take, inviting contributions on these matters.

We made small posters and stuck them on the wall—prompts to remind us of what was now required of us. … Indeed, the value of the new practice was readily seen and it became adopted with pride. The team members set out to spread this culture in the meetings they were calling in the different branches of the administration …

–Leonard Joy1

Notes:
1 Gray Cox et al., A Quaker Approach to Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment, pp. 40–41.

Related post:
Book Review: A Quaker Approach to Research

Anteckningar från ett kväkerskt beslutsmöte

Inledning
Jag är intresserad av hur man kan ta vara på en grupps kollektiva kunskap och intelligens. Kväkarnas sätt att fatta beslut är unik. Metoden har även har studerats akademiskt. Här är min recension av Beyond Majority Rule (på engelska), som bygger på Michael J. Sheerans doktorsavhandling.

Bakgrund
I februari 2014 gick jag en kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod. Här är mina intryck från kursen. Sedan dess har jag tänkt att det skulle vara intressant att få vara med på ett beslutsmöte. I januari 2017 fick jag slutligen tillfälle att vara med på ett av kväkarnas lokala beslutsmöten i Stockholm. Det möte jag var med på hålls månadsvis.

Beslutsmötet är ett medlemsmöte, men jag fick ombudets tillåtelse att vara med som observatör. (Den person som leder beslutsmötet kallas ombud.) Ombudet inbjöd mig också att vara med på andaktsmötet som hölls innan beslutsmötet. Mellan andakts- och beslutsmötena ingick en fika med kaffe och smörgås. Jag fick intrycket att andakten och den gemensamma fikastunden ingick i ombudets förberedelse inför beslutsmötet.

Kväkargården, Stockholm.

Beslutsmötet
Beslutsmötet inleddes med en runda bland deltagarna. Jag valde att presentera mig själv helt kort och berätta varför jag var där, men flera personer var personliga i sina inledande kommentarer.

I detta fall var mötesformen relativt informell eftersom det var ett litet beslutsmöte. Jag la märke till att var och en diskret vände sig till ombudet innan hen talade. Vid ett tillfälle blev den person som talade avbruten av en annan person. Ombudet ingrep då så snabbt att jag knappt hann märka vad som hände. Vid ett annat tillfälle bad ombudet om ”framkallningstid”, vilket är en stund av tystnad. Återigen hann jag knappt lägga märke till vad som fick ombudet att agera, men jag förstod att ombudet ville dra ner på tempot och bjuda in till eftertanke.

Då och då försökte ombudet sammanfatta vad som hade sagts. Om någon tyckte att ombudet inte riktigt hade förstått så fortsatte samtalet. Så småningom bad ombudet om tystnad för att skriva ner beslutet. Ombudet tog påfallande god tid på sig, men det visade sig att formuleringarna verkligen återspeglade det som hade sagts på ett bra sätt.

Jag noterade också att besluten i sig hanterades varsamt. Ett av besluten berörde t.ex. en icke närvarande medlem. Mötet såg i detta fall till att beslutet inte onödigt begränsar denna medlems framtida handlingsutrymme.

Mötet avslutades med en runda. Jag valde att passa.

Sammanfattning
Efter beslutsmötet blev jag ombedd att dela med mig av mina intryck. Det som gjorde störst intryck på mig var användningen av ”framkallningstid”, samt att ombudet tog god tid på sig för att omsorgsfullt formulera besluten.

Jag upplevde också att samtalet löpte fritt, men att det ändå var disciplinerat.  Vid detta möte satt deltagarna hela tiden. Vid större möten med fler deltagare ställer sig den som talar. Poängen är att endast en person kan stå åt gången.

Till sist vill jag rikta ett varmt tack till ombudet för att jag fick vara med! Det var en ny och intressant erfarenhet, som har gjort intryck.

Efterord
Principen för samtycke i sociokrati bygger på kväkarnas beslutsmetod. Jag ser likheter och skillnader mellan kväkarnas sätt att fatta beslut och sociokrati. I båda fallen inleds och avslutas mötet med rundor, men i ett sociokratiskt beslutsmöte används rundor hela tiden.

I sociokrati presenteras först ett förslag, som sedan följs av fråge-, reaktions- och beslutsrundor. Personer som är ovana vid sociokratiskt beslutsfattande brukar blanda ihop dessa rundor, t.ex. genom att ge reaktioner under frågerundan, eller rentav genom att börja göra invändningar, fast formulerade som frågor, under frågerundan.

En annan skillnad som jag har sett i den praktiska tillämpningen är att kväkarna med sin ”framkallningstid” medvetet drar ner på tempot när det börja ”hetta till”. I sociokratiska sammanhang har jag sett hur en erfaren sociokrati-konsult tvärtom har ökat tempot när det har kommit invändningar. (Troligen har det skett omedvetet?)

Ytterligare en skillnad är att kväkarna söker efter mötets mening, medan det i sociokrati snarare handlar om att hantera invändningar. Det är en subtil, men viktig skillnad. Principen för samtycke i sociokrati skulle lika gärna kunna kallas principen för inga invändningar.

Relaterade inlägg:
Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod
En historisk tillbakablick på kväkarnas beslutsmetod
Att lyssna till livet i allt
Om att arbeta

Relaterade inlägg (på engelska):
Book Review: Beyond Majority Rule
What Wikimedia can learn from the Quakers

Analysis of egalitarian dynamics among the G/wi

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to explore the egalitarian dynamics among the G/wi-speaking people in the Central Kalahari Reserve of Botswana. The analysis is summarized here.

Background
The egalitarian dynamics among foraging societies hold clues to a deeper generative ”order” for organizing. The example below is from Politics and history in band societies edited by Eleanor Leacock and Richard Lee. George Silberbauer spent time together with the G/wi in 1958–66. The G/wi were the only permanent inhabitants in the remote and arid heart of Botswana.1 Exploration for, and exploitation of, natural resources have disrupted the lives of the G/wi. The close-knit, self-sufficient organization of the G/wi were gone already in the 1950s.2

Assumptions

The community (the band)

  • The social community is the band.3
  • The band has a stable identity as a group of people living in a geographically specific territory and controlling the use of the resources of that territory.4
  • Membership of the band is less stable than its identity. Members are free to join other bands and are, therefore, free to leave the current band.5
  • The size of the community is limited by available resources of food etc. The community is open, but is nevertheless a finite one.6

Groups (cliques)

  • Cliques are unstable groups which which shift when moving to a new campsite every three to six weeks. The group’s composition is determined by the preference for one another’s close company.7
  • Interaction within a clique is much more intense than between cliques. The exchange of goods and services is higher within the clique. The women usually form a food-gathering group, and the men assist one another.8
  • Cliques also become focuses of opinion and function as sub-units of agreement within the band.9

Leadership

  • Leadership is the extent to which an individual’s suggestion or opinion attracts public support.10
  • The leadership is authoritative, rather than authoritarian. Knowledge, experience, and firmness are characteristics which win support. Expertise in one area may be seen as not at all relevant to another area.11
  • Leadership shifts unpredictably. Many discussions and lack of competitiveness separates idea from identity.12

Decision-making

  • The process of reaching a decision is initiated by somebody identifying and communicating a problem which calls for decision.13
  • Decisions affecting the band as a whole are arrived at through discussion in which all adult, and near-adult, members may participate.14
  • There are many ways to discuss: A quiet, serious discussion; A campaign of persuasion; Or a public harangue.15 The ‘forced eavesdrop’ avoids direct confrontation. Opponents are free to do the same.16
  • The time taken for discussion is naturally limited by the urgency of the matter. Less urgent matters can be debated for long with the subject cropping up from time to time until a satisfying solution to the problem is reached.17
  • If discussion becomes too angry or excited, debate is temporarily adjourned by the withdrawal of the attention of the calmer participants until things cool down.18
  • Public decisions cover a wide field. That which is not public is permitted to be private, but there is little which escapes the concern and insight of band fellows.19

Consensus

  • Decisions are arrived at by consensus. Consensus is a term in common use but without common meaning. It is not unanimity of opinion or decision. In the same way as egalitarian doesn’t mean equality.20
  • Consensus is reached by examining the various possible courses of action and rejection of all but one to which there remains no significant opposition.21
  • Significant opposition is the dissent of those to whom the proposal is not acceptable, who are unable to live with it, and who are not prepared to concede the decision.22
  • The fact that it is the band as a whole which decides is both necessary and sufficient to legitimize what is decided and to make the decision binding.23

Coercion

  • The consent in consensus negates coercion, and vice versa.24
  • The openness of the band gives members freedom to move to another band.25
  • The power lies in what the band decides and in book-keeping of material benefits and social balance.26
  • The leadership is facilitative, rather than forceful, seeking ways of getting things done, while accommodating dissent.27

Conclusions
The example above shows how deeply leadership and decision-making is embedded in the social context of the G/wi. The leadership is authoritative, rather than authoritarian, and shifts unpredictably depending on the situation. The decision-making is done in many ways depending on the kind of decision and the urgency of the decision. Individual band members choose freely which groups to join, and strives for cooperation in the activities he or she wishes to undertake. It is also interesting to notice how the openness of the band gives members freedom to move to another band. The freedom to move to another band is an effective way to meet coercion. The loss of many band members would be costly to those remaining. An open, egalitarian, social structure is authentic because it’s based on a natural belonging together, while a closed, coercive, social structure is counterfeit because it’s a forced belonging together.

Notes:
1 Ibid., Eleanor Leacock, Richard Lee (editors), Politics and history in band societies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 23.
2 Ibid., p. 24.
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid., p. 26.
7 Ibid., p. 28.
8 Ibid..
9 Ibid..
10 Ibid., p. 29.
11 Ibid..
12 Ibid..
13 Ibid..
14 Ibid., p. 26.
15 Ibid..
16 Ibid., p. 27.
17 Ibid..
18 Ibid., p. 29.
19 Ibid., p. 30.
20 Ibid., p. 31.
21 Ibid., p. 32.
22 Ibid., p. 34.
23 Ibid., p. 32.
24 Ibid..
25 Ibid., p. 33.
26 Ibid., p. 34.
27 Ibid..

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Coming to the right solution for all

When we have to find solutions, we take our time. We begin in a circle of chiefs, with the grandmothers standing behind. The chiefs must answer to the grandmothers and to the community they represent for their decisions. They understand that they have a lot of responsibility, not to their own egos, but to the grandmothers and to the community. And so, if it is not possible to find the right solution at one council, we wait until the next time there is a meeting. There is no shame in not finding the solution quickly. There is shame in not coming to the right solution for all who are affected.
— Six Nations Elder in Canada 1

Notes:
1 Birgitt Williams, The Genuine Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership, (DALAR, July 2014), p. 195.

Indaba

Indaba” (pronounced IN-DAR-BAH), comes from the Zulu and Xhosa people of southern Africa, and is used to simplify discussions between many parties.

When things got tricky at the climate-change summit in Paris, indabas where held at all hours of the day. An indaba is designed to allow each part to speak personally and state their thresholds, while also suggesting solutions to find a common ground.

This Quartz article describes indabas as a way to reach consensus, but to me it sounds more like consent.

See also indaba on Wikipedia.

Book Review: Beyond Majority Rule

Beyond Majority Rule: voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends is the publication of Michael J. Sheeran’s doctoral work in the Dept. of Politics at Princeton University. He spent two years (1973—75) conducting interviews, reading, and observing the actual decision-making of the Quakers. Sheeran is convinced that the Quakers “have something of first importance to share in their technique of reaching a viable resolution of their own problems” (p. ix).

Knowing, respecting, and trusting each other
A prerequisite is “having a group of limited size who know and respect and trust each other” (p. ix). The members of this group must “be willing to listen to each other with open minds, to learn from each other and be willing to feel into the shaping of a decision” (p. ix). Among common blockages are having “a fixed and unchangeable mind as to the outcome”, the unwillingness “to lay aside pressure tactics to force an early decision”, and not following the Quaker caution “to use as few words as possible and as many as are necessary” (p. x).

The Presence in the midst
Central to the Quaker understanding of unity-based decision making is the idea that there is “that of God in every one” (p. 3). Quakers do not begin with a theory. They begin with an event in which, ideally, “the presence of God is experienced by each person as part of a group experience” (p. 5). A meeting is “covered” or “gathered into the Life”, when the group is aware of “the Presence in the midst” (p. 6). Richard Vann wrote already in 1683 that “even one person out of harmony with the meeting could prevent it from accomplishing anything” (p. 6).

Advice rather than regulation
Friends are chary of “binding the spirit” by regulations (p. 47). Instead, they provide “advice rather than regulation” (p. 47). Meetings always “begins with silence and closes in silence” (p. 49). If the meeting is properly carried through, there may emerge an “openness not to my wishes and my designs and my surface preferences but [an] openness to the deeper levels … where the problem may be resolved in quite a different way than had ever occurred to me” (p. 50).

Decision-making principles
There are “a number of factors which seem characteristic of Quaker decision making” (p. 51):

  1. unanimous decisions—no voting;
  2. silent periods—at start of meeting and when conflict arises;
  3. moratorium—when agreement cannot be reached;
  4. participation by all with ideas on the subject;
  5. learning to listen—not going to meeting with mind made up;
  6. absence of leaders—the clerk steers but does not dominate;
  7. nobody outranks anybody;
  8. factual-focus—emotions kept to a minimum; and
  9. small meetings—typically limited numbers.

These factors, or principles, are explored in the book in an attempt to bring the reader beyond a “superficial comprehension” (p. 51). While doing so, Michael J. Sheeran puts the focus on “two central and subtle matters: the nature of unity in a decision and the systems of belief which seem to underlie successful use of the method” (p. 52).

Group searching together
A point of pride about Quaker decisions is that they “occasion the emergence of … a higher synthesis of individual ideas” (p. 53). The goals of Quaker decision making are “different from those of majority rule” (p. 54). The proposals made at the beginning of a discussion are “usually seen … as starting points, not as finished products unsusceptible to modification” (p. 54). In Quaker decision making, it is not only presumed “that each participant seeks the best solution”, but it is also presumed “that the group, by searching together, can reach such a … solution” (p. 55). Attitudes contrary to this searching together suffers “subtle but sharp sanctions” (p. 55). The attitudes demanded of Friends is one of “openness to one another’s ideas —the ability to put aside pet notions in favor of the next person’s insight” (p. 55).

Release from fear and reluctance to express one’s ideas
Michael J. Sheeran emphasizes that “those who dread the effects of candour in a Meeting are not giving that Meeting the opportunity which it needs to realize all the possibilities of its group life” (p. 55). “Release from fear, from shyness, from reluctance to express one’s ideas” is given high priority by the Friends (p. 55). Opinions should always be expressed “humbly and tentatively in the realization that no one person sees the whole truth and that the whole meeting can see more of Truth than can any part of it” (p. 56). “Tentativeness and an artless willingness to face the weaknesses in one’s position rather than to paper them over with distracting allusions” are equally important, and “sanctions against unacceptable rhetoric are subtle but effective” (p. 56). Friends “emphasize the importance of encouraging every participant in a meeting to feel that his or her contribution will be received with appreciation” (p. 57).

Emotions are difficult
Friends sometimes have difficulties in revealing “their own inner feelings or to seek out ways of speaking which will let people know—in a non-rhetorical manner—the depth of their feelings” (p. 57). As a result, “the emotional dimensions of topics sometimes do not get the frank attention they deserve” (p. 57). However, it’s important to remember that Friends are “not opposed to emotions, [and] not opposed to their having an important bearing on decisions” (p. 58).

Being face-to-face, acceptance and mutual respect
The need for “openness” has some direct corollaries. The method is “harmstrung whenever participants cannot be face-to-face” (p. 60). Another corollary is that the topics which a group can successfully deal with are “normally limited by the strength of the bonds of respect for one another” within the group (pp. 60—61). The emphasis is on “acceptance of one another, mutual respect, avoidance of the manipulative conduct …, and one’s dependence on searching together with the group for better conclusions than anyone alone could have attained” (p. 61).

Unity is not unanimity or consensus
One major difficulty is that “no conventional term adequately expresses the phenomenon of decisional agreement in a Quaker meeting” (p. 63). Some describe all decisions as “unanimous on the grounds that any objecting member could prevent action”, but this is misleading since it “implies that all participants are satisfied when a decision is reached—a point hardly true of many Quaker decisions” (p. 63). Other speak of “consensus, thereby underscoring that the bulk of those present agree even if one or two objectors remain”, but this is misleading too (p. 63). Michael J. Sheeran emphasizes that “Quakers are simply not satisfied to know that even the overwhelming majority are in agreement” (p. 63). Given this verbal difficulty, the term used by the Friends is “unity” rather than “unanimity” or “consensus” (p. 63). Another early Quaker term used was “concord” (p. 63), which is Sheeran’s preferred term.

At least two stages of discussion
There are at least two stages of discussion in the decision-making. The “preliminary stage follows initial presentation of both the problem and its possible solutions” (p. 64). At this point, “participants often ask questions of the person who has made the presentation, offer tentative alternatives to the proposal, and even find themselves more in the posture of brainstorming than of making serious judgments” (p. 64). Remarks contrary to the proposal “are taken to be exploratory” (p. 64). The transition from “the preliminary to the serious phase” is normally informal (p. 64). An individual will “offer a suggestion—perhaps a rejection of the basic proposal for a novel reason—and then sit back to see what response the idea draws from the group” (p. 64). Such a statement “does not involve personal commitment to the idea”, but is “a testing of the waters” (p. 64). The ability to “differentiate tentative from serious and ambiguous remarks” is important for all participants, and especially for the clerk, whose “duty it is to read the group and decide whether there is serious objection to the general direction in which discussion is moving” (p. 64).

The tide may or may not build
As Friends begin “to speak their serious conclusions, the tide will build” (p. 64). Listeners who find a speaker’s remarks match their own will follow his or her words with “I agree” or “I can unite with that” or “that speaks my mind” (p. 65). Sometimes “several currents are running in the tide, pulling the meeting in two or more directions”, and sometimes there may be “no tide or current at all” (p. 65). In either of these situations, the discussion continues until a conclusion emerges, at the “suggestion of the clerk or some other participant”, or that “there is agreement that no conclusion can be reached for now” (p. 65). If the tide is running in a particular direction, the clerk is expected “to make a judgment that the group is now ready for agreement and to propose a tentative minute … as the clerk understands it from listening to the discussion”.

Objections to a proposal
Each group member has “two quite different questions to ask” when the clerk proposes a minute (p. 65). First, does the proposed minute catch the tide of the discussion? If the answer is no, then this opinion is expected to be raised. Discussions follows such an objection, with various Friends “stating how they respond to the minute as an expression of the group’s will” (p. 65). Then, the clerk “rephrases or withdraws the minute if necessary” (p. 65). Michael J. Sheeran observes that “it is often the case that one person’s statement of misgivings leads others to reassess their judgments, giving more prominence to matters they had initially dismissed” (p. 66). If a person still can’t agree, the group is unable to proceed. However, Sheeran also observes that “the realities, fortunately, are much more subtly adapted to the complexities of human disagreement” (p. 66)

A whole spectrum of objections
There’s actually a “whole spectrum of dissent available” in Quaker decision making (pp. 66—72):

  • I disagree but do not wish to stand in the way
  • Please minute me as opposed
  • I am unable to unite with the proposal
  • Absence

Even if deliberate absence “signifies deep disagreement with a proposal, it does not necessarily block action” (p. 70). The group is expected “go ahead at once if the objector follows the typical approach of stating his or her unease but affirming a desire not to stand in the way” (p. 71). The same is true “if he or she asks to be minuted as opposed, although it seems that the group will proceed in much more chary fashion” (p. 71). If the individual simply is “unable to unite, the group will normally delay action” (p. 71). Michael J. Sheeran notes that “the group’s willingness to delay is a function of the apparent importance of the objector’s objection” (p. 71). The group’s readiness to delay “also depends on its respect for the objector” (p. 71). A third factor is time. “The more urgent the matter, the more highly regarded the objector needs to be” (p. 71). “The relative significance of each factor depends in each situation upon the entire set of relationships existing at a given moment within the group under consideration” (p. 72).

The religious dimension
The religious dimension of a meeting can run a spectrum “from the merest formality to an extraordinary quality very significant to the decision being taken” (p. 82). “Truly worshipful decisions tend to occur in situations of high risk”, but the occasions “when such dramatic religious depth is called for are not common” (p. 83). The typical meeting oscillates between “a superficial and a rather profound religious tone” depending upon the topic under discussion (p. 84). Michael J. Sheeran observes that “decisions at the religious level … tend to draw greater acceptance from those present” (p. 84). One Friend said that “decisions based on human considerations are fine, but they’re not enough for sacrifices of really important things like family and friends and life goals.” (p. 84).

Same vocabulary with different meanings
Michael J. Sheeran found that Friends language is ambiguous. “Everybody seemed to use the same vocabulary but with different meanings” (p. 85). But, when Sheeran “reflected on the atmosphere and the tone of his interviews instead of the words that were exchanged”, he found that “the experience itself [of the gathered meeting] was what counted” (p. 87).

Strengths of Quaker leadership
Quaker leadership demands “the intertwining of traditional basic leadership skills with a peculiar skill at reading the sense of the meeting” (p. 99). The most important duty of the clerk is “to judge the sense of the meeting” (p. 95). In doing this, “the clerk is likely to consider the general reputation of the leading speakers for each viewpoint, the extent of information and experience each brings to the topic, the apparent conviction beneath a remark, and other intangible factors” (p. 95). “The opportunity to manipulate is obvious” (p. 96), but Sheeran notes that “abuse of power seems curiously rare” (p. 97). “The great caution clerks feel about abuse of power came out frequently in the interviews”, with the most experienced clerks “appearing most chary of abuse” (p. 98). Of fundamental importance is that “Quaker theory sees the clerk or other leader as servant of the meeting, not its director” (p. 100). The clerk’s role, as mentioned previously, is to “articulate the unity which he or she discovers and to facilitate the formation of that unity” (p. 100). The good clerk “knows whether people are saying what they really think” (p. 100). Michael J. Sheeran refers to this phenomenon as the ability to “read” the group (p. 101). He even goes a step further and wonders whether it’s perhaps “a weakness, given our theory that leadership is still needed” (p. 103).

Weaknesses of Quaker leadership
Quaker leadership “provides great support to the goal of reaching unity on divisive questions” (p. 104), but it has weaknesses too. The most obvious problem is that “there is no guarantee that individuals with the ability to read the community accurately will also excel in the basic organizational skills required for running a meeting” (p. 104). Given the “spectrum of possible combinations of strengths and weaknesses” there are “quite different styles and emphases in various Quaker groups using the same fundamental procedures” (p. 104). Another problem is that the individual who can discern the unity “quickly exercises an influence that is subtle and pervasive” (p. 105). Thus, “the person who comes to the meeting with a solution in his back pocket might wait until the group seems ripe for the idea instead of proposing it at the outset” (p. 105). The speaker’s preparations in advance may then be confused with “an inspired reading of the present level of agreement of the assembly” (p. 105). The group has little defense against such manipulation.

Conclusions
In a fundamental sense, Friends decision making ”presuppose that participants are in community” (p. 115). Participants need to be willing to say what they really think, listen to each other, and be willing to make decisions work out successfully. Michael J. Sheeran’s book is recommended reading for everyone who is interested in how to move beyond majority rule into group-centered decision-making.

How Quakers make unanimous decisions

Don Miller (left) and Jim Rough (right)

Here is a video where Don Miller explains to Jim Rough how Quakers have been making unanimous decisions for 350 years. Don says Quakers reject the idea of consensus.1

Notes:
1 Don Miller, Quaker Process (#125) at 7:44, The Jim Rough Show, Port Townsend Television, 27 August 2010.

Related post (in Swedish):
Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod

The Tyranny of Structurelessness

Jo Freeman’s essay on The Tyranny of Structurelessness is about the tyranny of ”elites”, where an ”elite” is defined as ”a small group of people who have power over a larger group of which they are part”. The problem with these ”elites” is that they don’t have ”direct responsibility to that larger group, and often without their knowledge or consent”. The conclusion then is that these ”elites” should ”at least [be] responsible to the group at large”. This means, for example, that the ”rules of decision-making must be open and available to everyone”. The assumption is that a ”formal structure” can ”hinder the informal structure from having predominant control”. I’m not so sure! I don’t think formal structures help if all people care about are their own ”elitist” interests. I think the cognitive model of human beings as rule-followers is inadequate.

Book Review: Team of Teams

Teams of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Stanley McChrystal, with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell, is a book about the restructuring of the Joint Special Operations Task Force from the ground up. The book is built upon the authors ”personal experiences”, together with their ”reviews” of ”published studies” and ”interviews” with ”experts in a wide variety of fields” (p. 5). The authors ”lay out the symptoms”, the ”root causes”, and the ”approaches” that they and others have found effective (p. 5). I think the book contains a useful blend of practical and theoretical knowledge.

Volatililty
The authors describe in detail throughout the book how they restructured the Task Force ”from the ground up on principles of extremely transparent information sharing … and decentralized decision-making authority”. In short, how the Task Force became ”a team of teams” (p. 20). The Task Force was an ”awesome machine”, but it was ”too slow, too static, and too specialized” to deal with its volatile environment (p. 81). Key to the necessary transformation was to understand what made the ”constituent teams adaptable, and how this differed from the structure and culture” of the Task Force at large (p. 92).

Trust & Purpose
The teams in the Task Force are forged ”methodically and deliberately” (p. 94). The purpose of the training is to ”build superteams” (p. 96). The training is all about ”developing trust and the ability to adapt within a small group” (p. 97). This is done because ”teams whose members know one another deeply perform better” (p. 98). Teams which are ”fused by trust and purpose” are much more potent, and ”can improvise a coordinated response to dynamic, real-time developments” (p. 98). ”Team members tackling complex environments must all grasp the team’s situation and overarching purpose” (p. 99). The physical hardship during the training “is a test, not of strength, but of commitment” (p. 99). Furthermore, “failure is always punished” (p. 97). The trainees who make it through the training ”believe in the cause” (p. 100), and are prepared “placing their lives at risk … alongside committed patriots” (p. 100).

Oneness & Adaptivity
The competitive advantage of teams is “their ability to think and act as a seamless unit” (p. 105). This is sometimes called “joint cognition” (p. 105). The point is that “a thorough integration of minds … can unlock far more complex solutions than a set of individual thinkers” (p. 105). Great teams are more like “awesome organisms” than “awesome machines” (p. 120). However, the challenge is that the larger the organization gets, the “harder it is for it to think and act as one” (p. 124). Team dynamics are “powerful but delicate” (p. 127), and teams are “much trickier to build and maintain than we like to think” (p. 127). Accomplishing a true “team of teams” involved “a complete reversal of the conventional approach to information sharing, delineation of roles, decision-making authority, and leadership” (p. 131).

Information Sharing
The transformation of the Task Force “demanded the adoption of extreme transparency” in order to provide “every team with an unobstructed, constantly up-to-date view of the rest of the organization” (p. 163). The critical first step was to share the “information widely” and be generous with “people and resources” (p. 167). The thinking was that the value of the “information and the power that came with it were greater the more it was shared” (p. 167). The “Operations & Intelligence brief” became the “heart muscle of the organism” and the “pulse by which it would live or die” (p. 164). The O&I, as it was commonly called, was a daily meeting “held by the leadership … to integrate everything the command is doing with everything it knows” (p. 164). Over time, the O&I began to “develop its own gravitational pull as more and more groups recognized what the speed and transparency … could offer” (p. 167). Individual and organizational “arrogance manifested itself in subtle ways as people tried to assert or maintain their preeminence”, but “eventually people either produced or faded in importance” (p. 166).

Relationships
Information sharing was just a start. The next step was to strengthen the relationships “among the Task Force’s internal teams”, and between “the Task Force and the partner agencies” (p. 180). Slowly, “personal relationships” and “bonds of trust” grew between the teams (pp. 175—177). “Bonds of trust began to form” and “began to overcome internal competition and barriers to cooperation” (p. 180). The “new architecture” consisted of “extreme participatory transparency” and the “creation of strong internal connectivity across teams” (p. 197). Paradoxically, the “seemingly instantaneous communications … slowed rather than accelerated decision making” (p. 202).

Decision-making
The practice of relaying decision up and down the chain of command is based on “the assumption … that the cost of the delay is less than the cost of the errors produced by removing a supervisor” (p. 209). In reality, “the risks of acting too slowly were higher than the risks of letting competent people make judgment calls” (p. 209). Authority was pushed down “until it made us uncomfortable” (p. 214). On the whole, this initiative “met with tremendous success” (p. 214). “More important, and more surprising, we found that, even as speed increased and we pushed authority further down, the quality of decisions actually went up” (p. 214). One reason for this was that “an individual who makes a decision becomes more invested in its outcome” (p. 215). Another reason was that “leadership simply did not understand what was happening on the ground as thoroughly as the people who were there” (p. 215). “Individuals and teams closest to the problem, armed with unprecedented levels of insights from across the network, offer the best ability to decide and act decisively” (p. 219).

Leadership
The role of the senior leader changed. The role “was no longer that of [a] controlling puppet master, but rather that of an empathetic crafter of culture” (p. 222). The focus shifted to “shaping the ecosystem” (p. 226). “Thinking out loud” and openly admitting “I don’t know” was “accepted, even appreciated” (p. 229). “Asking for opinions and advice showed respect”. The “overall message reinforced by the O&I was that we have a problem that only we can understand and solve” (p. 229). “A leader’s words matter, but actions ultimately do more to reinforce or undermine the implementation of a team of teams” (p. 232).

Conclusions
The authors emphasize that “there is no such thing as an organizational panacea—the details will always be different for different people, places, and objectives—but” they ”believe that” their ”model provides a good blueprint” (p. 249). I think something really important has to be at stake in order to be able to turn an organization into a team of teams. I also think you need to have true teams in place, and not just teams in name. The way of forging teams described in the book is extreme to say the least. And I think the role of senior leadership can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing if senior leadership really understands—and accepts—the central tenets outlined in the book. It’s a curse if senior leadership doesn’t, because then the team of teams will be turned into a “command of teams”, or just an old-fashioned “command” (p. 129). The book is well worth reading!

S. McChrystal, T. Collins, D. Silverman, & C. Fussell, Team of Teams, p. 129.

Related book review:
The Art of Action by Stephen Bungay

How will companies approach the management challenge?

Here is a visionary tweet by Kenneth Mikkelsen on how companies in the future will approach the management challenge. The businesses will:

  • Have a higher purpose beyond making profit
  • Hire people who are passionate about this higher purpose
  • See all shareholders as equally important
  • Cultivate long-term relationships with suppliers
  • Have open doors and be transparent with information
  • Encourage decision-making and autonomy all the way down
  • Pay well, provide excellent benefits and be generous with training/development
  • Volunteer services to the community
  • Narrow the gap in pay

Ackoff on consensus

I have written previously here that I am convinced that sociocratic principles can be implemented in many ways. Below is an additional example from Russel L. Ackoff on the use of consensus which sounds very sociocratic to me:

Decisions made by a majority of participants usually create a dissatisfied minority.

Decision-making by consensus avoids such abuse, but it appears to make reaching a conclusion very difficult if not impossible. This only appears to be the case because the nature of consensus is not well understood. It is complete agreement, not in principle, by in practice.

Agreement in practice is agreement to act; it does not require that the approved action is taken by all to be the best in principle.

When consensus is not reached, an attempt should first be made to design a test of the alternatives proposed, a test that all the participants accept as fair and one by whose outcome they are willing to abide.”

… I have never experienced one [session] in which consensus could not be reached …

Source: Russell L. Ackoff, The Democratic Corporation, pp. 81—83.

What is a good decision?

Frederic Laloux makes the following distinctions in Reinventing Organizations, page 46.

  • In the Impulsive-Red perspective, a good decision is the one that gets me what I want.
  • In Conformist-Amber, decisions are held up to the light of conformity to social norms.
  • In Achievement-Orange, effectiveness and success are the yardsticks by which decisions are made.
  • In Pluralistic-Green, matters are judged by the criteria of belonging and harmony.
  • In Evolutionary-Teal, there is a shift from external to internal yardsticks in the decision-making. Does this decision seem right? Am I being true to myself? Am I being of service to the world?

 

Quaker decision-making principles

There are a number of principles which are characteristic of Quaker decision-making:

  1. Unanimous decisions—no voting
  2. Silent periods—at start of meeting and when conflict arises
  3. Moratorium—when agreement cannot be reached
  4. Participation by all with ideas on the subject
  5. Learning to listen—not going to meeting with mind made up
  6. Absence of leaders—the clerk steers but does not dominate
  7. Nobody outranks anybody
  8. Factual-focus—emotions kept to a minimum
  9. Small meetings—typically limited numbers

References:
Michael J. Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule, p. 51.
Stuart Chase, Roads to Agreement, pp. 51-52.

Quaker-based decision-making

The principle of consent in sociocracy is derived from Quaker practices. The Quaker-based decision-making has a simple structure which allows for individual voices to be heard while moving the group towards unity (not unanimity). Key components are:

  • The belief in a common humanity and the ability to decide together.
  • Ensuring group members speak only once until others are heard.
  • Dissenters’ perspectives are welcomed.
  • The facilitator serves the group rather than acting as person-in-charge.
  • The facilitator articulates the sense of the discussion.
  • The facilitator discerns who is acting in selfish interest without concern for the group.
  • Ideas and solutions belong to the group.
  • Decisions belong to the group.

Reference: Wikipedia

Kväkarnas beslutsmetod

Principen för samtycke i sociokrati bygger på kväkarnas 350-åriga traditioner. Beslut hos kväkarna fattas inte genom majoritetsröstning. Istället nås enighet genom att man söker efter ”mötets mening”. I detta sökande är allas erfarenhet, förstånd och omdöme viktiga! Det innebär kväkarna har en djup respekt för individens integritet.  En grundläggande tanke hos kväkarna är att varje individ har tillgång till Ljuset. De är därför icke-hierarkiskt organiserade och saknar Ledare (med stort L).

Källor:
Kväkartidsskrift Nr 1 2008, Vännernas samfund i Sverige: Frågor till kväkare.

Relaterade inlägg:
Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod